Sunday, 15 November 2015

A common tech platform for local government?

I talk to lots of people working in lots of councils about collaboration every week, and on Monday I received an email that really highlighted the barriers to working together with a common tech platform across Local Government.

Here's the two most pertinent paragraphs, with a few bits redacted for obvious reasons:

We are migrating from [IT SYSTEM] to [IT SYSTEM]. We are a very small team without the same large infrastructure of most authorities. We do not have a Comms team or Comms Manager. No webmaster or any extras.
What we are doing here is creating a common platform centred around [IT PLATFORM]. Only one more migration to perform and that is to replace [IT SYSTEM] with [IT SYSTEM].  

Anyone who thinks rolling out a common tech platform across the whole of Local Government would be easy, needs to have a think about the issues this highlights.

The council in question are on their own timeline, as are all other councils. It's probably going to be three or four years before they look at this again. Rightly or wrongly, some councils will be locked into contracts that last longer than this, particularly those that have outsourced their IT capability.

Asking the council in question to abandon this programme and start another to roll out common elements that do the same thing would be costly. They probably won't have the resource to retrace the same steps to deliver a solution that does the same thing as they've just delivered, with different tech.

I know some councils that are digging into their reserves to fund digital transformation programmes. It's a one off spend-to-save and once the funds are gone, they're gone, but the programme will help the council stay financially afloat by delivering better cheaper services to their citizens.

For a digital transformation programme to a common platform to happen across local government at the same time, someone needs to fund this, 400+ times over. In short it would costs billions, it might save billions too, but it needs capital funding from a central source to work.

A common tech platform across the whole of local government wouldn't be impossible, but it's far from easy or cheap, as I have seen some suggest.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.